in a nutshell
Well-loved Bermondsey neighbourhood Spanish restaurant opens a new branch in the City.
Chef José Pizarro is overseeing the opening of this, his third restaurant, alongside Executive Chef Zoltan Polgar.
The lunch and dinner menu is divided into snacks, small and large sharing plates, charcuterie and cheese, Spanish conservas (premium tinned fish) and desserts (from £3 to £25). You are encouraged to mix and match from different sections of the menu rather than follow 3 courses, although snacks and cold dishes will be brought out first. Pizarro’s style is to cook simply with top-notch ingredients, so the menu is pretty clear to understand and the extremely knowledgeable staff can fill in any blanks for you. We shared a snack, a conservas of sardines and toast, 1 small and 2 large dishes and had a dessert each.
We ordered lots and didn’t hit a single bum note. We started with a bowl of delicate prawn fritters with a punchy saffron aioli, the prawns just held together by the lightest of spiced batters. A small plate of grilled baby gem was given extra welly with creamy Spanish blue Peral cheese, piquillo peppers, anchovies and a sweet PX honey dressing (our waitress overhearing my non-love for anchovies brought the plate with them on the side, which was a really thoughtful touch).
Large plates of fall-apart stuffed aubergine with pisto and onion migas (crunchy breadcrumbs) became a fight to the last forkful and perfectly cooked lamb cutlets were served with panaderas potatoes (sliced then baked to a melting tenderness with olive oil and onions) and a nicely balanced black olive tapenade.
The winning pud has to be a bowl of rich dark chocolate drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt, served with crisp pieces of toast for spreading on.
what we’re going back for
The prawn fritters. The single most delicious deep-fried thing I have ever eaten.
what’s the room like?
A really airy space with floor to ceiling windows along one side which will open onto terrace seating and Broadgate Circle in the summer.
The kitchen is open and runs along one side of the room behind a long seated bar for casual eating and drinking. The clean modern lines of the room are broken up with different textures, walls of distressed wood, warm brass coloured table tops and soft blue leather furnishings. A raised communal marble table sits in the centre of the room.
need to know
If you love chef-watching or you are eating alone, bag a seat at the open bar/kitchen for maximum entertainment value.
what we loved
The staff are relaxed, warm and friendly as well as being incredibly knowledgeable – we ordered a couple of things on our waitresses’s recommendation which turned out to be our favourite dishes of the night. Pizarro’s cooking is simple in the best possible way – there are no cheffy bells and whistles, just a delicate touch and a lot of TLC that lets the ingredients shine and keeps the flavours bright and distinct. We also loved the well chosen all-Spanish wine list. A recommended tempranillo from the Ribera del Duero seemed to go perfectly with everything – if it hadn’t been a work night we might have gone for a second bottle…
The gorgeous chocolate dessert was inspired by Pizarro’s love of Nutella. Yes, this is a much more grown up version served with olive oil and sea salt flakes… but it has the same you-could-eat-it-with-a spoon quality.
Meet the Chef: José Pizarro, founder and executive chef, José Pizarro restaurants
I’m all about using fresh, simple, seasonal ingredients to create beautiful, delicious plates of food for my guests. I use classic Spanish ingredients such as jamón Ibérico or pimentón, to really showcase the fantastic food of Spain.
The best thing on my menu is the presa, which is a stunning cut of Ibérico pork, taken from near the shoulder. It is served pink and just with a little sea salt. It is exquisite, and my customers go mad for it!
In my fridge there are always olives, cream, Manchego, salad leaves and herbs, because you can do anything with them!
My most-used cook book is Claudia Roden’s The Food of Spain. It is a bible for me!
My favourite 15-minute supper is a simple tortilla. If you have potatoes, some onions, some garlic and some oil, there’s nothing you cannot achieve.
A food/restaurant trend I see sticking around or being the next big thing is sharing plates. Londoners in particular have embraced the tapas style of eating, which of course I love.
I know I shouldn’t admit it but my guilty pleasure food is pot noodles and fish and chips.
A fellow chef I admire is Pierre Koffmann because I just love his personality and his view of life and cooking.
Never trust a chef who doesn’t take great pride in the ingredients he or she sources. It’s imperative to love and know where your ingredients come from.
I love eating out at Street Deli in Bermondsey. It’s cosy, has a great atmosphere and they always look after me. I always have the lovely porridge in the morning with banana and honey.
A place I love that not many people know about is Kappacassein, the melted cheese guys at Borough Market. Their sandwiches give me goose pimples.
If you gave me a tenner I‘d spend it on a bowl of Tonkotsu ramen at Tonkotsu (£11).
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